Saturday, October 09, 2004

Writing in the margins

Writing in the margins

John Keats wrote in the margins of books he borrowed and owned. He passed them to his friends and they did the same. Books were too expensive to keep to oneself, and the marginal notations were sort of the equivalent of today's blogging habit. No?

This from Cliopatria:

Two of my favorite books about John Adams, Joseph Ellis, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams (1993); and Zoltan Haraszti's much older book, John Adams and the Prophets of Progress (1952), make extensive use of the marginalia in the books in Adams's library. Some people apparently write notes in the margins of library books. Brandon Watson at Siris has a post that leaves you wondering why anyone would leave behind such evidence of non-comprehension. At Mode for Caleb, Caleb McDaniel looks, not at marginalia, but at the debris left to mark pages in a library book. It usually leaves no damage and may be a sort of winsome greeting to the next reader. In my first teaching position, one of my colleagues actually sent me on a scavenger hunt through books in the college library. He meant well. The message was: the odds against your getting tenure here are overwhelming; get your work done and be prepared to move on.

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